I’m not going to say much today, partly because it’s Christmas Eve and we’ve all got many more things to be getting on with, but also because the message from today’s advert is pretty simple and to the point.
Jesus is our unexpected guest. Someone who made it to our planet, to be amongst us. Someone who seems strange, but familiar at the same time. Someone who wants to teach us their ways, but also learn from us. Someone who didn’t belong to this planet, and was destined to return to their own place one day.
This Christmas may we all know the joy of meeting this unexpected guest. May we all have open eyes to see the unexpected guests all around us, welcoming them wherever and whenever we can.
We were so like that old man on the moon. Humanity was out there, thinking it was on its own, desperate to know that we weren’t, but we had lost our ability to see that God was there all along. The Old Testament is the story of God, like that little girl, waving at us from afar, and realising that we simply wouldn’t see him, and therefore thought he wasn’t there and didn’t care. Humanity had told itself that God had forgotten us and we were out there on our own.
But God, just like that little girl, hadn’t and wouldn’t give up on us. And didn’t stop at any lengths to get through to us. God sent Jesus to Earth so that we would have a means of communication once more. Jesus is like our telescope. Through him, we can come to God. Through him we are able to see that we are not on our own.
I don’t know about you, but it feels like this Christmas, after this year that has cost so many so much, there are lots of us who feel like we are out there on our own. We feel particularly like the man on the moon, isolated and sad, lonely and feeling unloved. So this Christmas, I pray that w all know the truth of the incarnation, that God has sent Jesus to be with us so that we would know that we are not alone, that God sees us and cares about us, and that through Jesus we can come back to God.
For many people this advert is the point that signals Christmas really being on its way. This advert has been Coca-Cola’s Christmas advertising campaign for as long as I can remember.
There’s a couple of points that we can make from this particular advert. The first is similar to the things I’ve already spoken about- the prophesies. As we count down through Advent we read some of those prophesies, we remember the key characters who pointed to the coming Messiah. And as we do the excitement and anticipation builds, like the repeated “Holidays are coming” in the advert. Friends, we’re so nearly there now, Christmas is coming, Jesus is coming to be with us.
Mainly though, I want to talk about that famous final line, “tis the season, always the real thing”. Jesus is the reason for this season, as the old adage goes. We would not be celebrating, sharing time with loved ones, giving gifts, and enjoying all the other festivities that we do without those original events of Christmas. It is the season during which we celebrate the incarnation, and remember the incredible gift we have in God’s presence amongst us.
Perhaps this year more than most, we need this season more than ever.
Jesus is the real thing. Jesus is God incarnate. The real thing has come to be with us, to give himself to us, and therefore we have this season. What a wonderful thing.
At Christmas we’re all about light. We light candles. Light both the insides and outsides of our homes so that they twinkle and shine. Count down the Sundays of Advent using candles. Now this is useful, at least in part, because Christmas falls during the darkest point of the year, so the lights matter. But at Christmas we remember Jesus the light of the world, shining in the darkness to be with us.
But at Christmas we’re also all about love. We want to be near to those people we love the most- especially at the moment when that feels in jeopardy. We give gifts to our nearest and dearest as tokens of our love. And we remember that Jesus, that light of the world, coming into the world to show us what God’s love looks like.
Christmas is all about light and love.
In the advert we see just how far one little bit of love can spread. One simple act of kindness has massive repercussions for many, many other people. This advert, from last year when we needed to see a message of love and kindness more than most years, depicts a chain reaction of love.
In this way love and light are the same. In a dark place even just a tiny glimmer of light shines brightly. Just the spark of one single match can illuminate a darkened room. Just the light of one tiny baby can light up the whole world. Love is the same. In a place full of fear and hate, just the tiniest shred of love makes all the difference.
In a dark world, light cannot be hidden. In a scared and hurting world, love simply cannot be hidden. ThisChristmas let’s give a little love, and not hide it when we do.
I’ve got to admit something, I didn’t remember this advert at all! But my boss alerted me to it half way through December, saying that she thought it was one of the best, I watched it and tended to agree with her. So I got rid of one of the more tenuous adverts I had planned for today and shoe horned this beauty in.
God could have done the incarnation in a really different way, let’s face it God could have done it anyway God wanted- this is God we’re talking about. The recue mission of salvation could have been accomplished in any manner of grand, showy, earth shattering, over the top ways. If I’d have been in charge that’s probably the way things would have gone if I’m honest. But that’s not the way it happened. The incarnation we celebrate at Christmas was quiet, dirty and thoroughly normal in the grand scheme of things. It happened almost in obscurity, in a tiny town where nothing special ever happened.
In the advert the lad who did this incredible act of kindness for his elderly neighbour could have really milked it for all it was worth, couldn’t he?! Again, I would be a little bit inclined to I think. He could have knocked on their door and stuck around, expecting their thanks and gratitude. He could have explained to his mate why he’d taken so long, making sure his mate felt bad for not being as kind as he is. But he didn’t. He just did this wonderful thing quietly and privately.
Because the important thing, in both the advert and the nativity, is the thing itself and absolutely not the way it happens. The important thing in the advert is that that the elderly person got the shopping they needed, and perhaps felt seen and cared about at a time when so many are lonely. The important thing in the nativity is that God came to be with us in human form.
In neither case did these things need to be over the top and grand, and in fact perhaps they’re made all the better that they’re done quietly. Perhaps then, the love can speak all the louder.
I feel like the messages from the angels that Kick off the Christmas story, that messenger sent to Mary to tell her what to expect once she’s expecting, and sent to Joseph to reassure him of what was going on was like God making sure that God’s son was going to be ok. It was metaphorically like God attaching a label to Jesus with the message “please look after this baby, thank you” written on it.
And Jesus is like Paddington, they’re lucky, they find a place in a family who makes space for them and love them.
But it isn’t just the small nuclear family which makes space for Paddington and choses to look after him, there are many other friends and people in his life who love him and look after him.
There are many more people, maybe even you reader, who have made space in their life to love Jesus.
And when love is shared, and a relationship is reciprocated the gift giving goes both ways doesn’t it. While the gift of love and family care was first given to Paddington from the Brown family, Paddington wants to give a gift in return. His gift is exuberant, a little bit reckless, and may be misunderstood from the outside to an untrained eye, but it is a gift of love nonetheless and Mr Brown understands.
Friends, we love because God first loved us. Jesus came to give us a gift in return for our love. A gift that is exuberant, a little bit reckless and can be easily misunderstood from the outside. It is the gift that Jesus came to give us this and every Advent.
I am often struck, as divided as it makes the crowds now, that Richard Curtis was really on to something with his seminal Christmas film, Love Actually. That film starts with the voiceover stating that love actually is all around. He’s not wrong!
Love is all around, and it is love that is the force beating deep within us, that makes so much of the world make sense. Love that completes us, love that drives so much of our lives.
In the advert it is love that is driving Monty. Monty has a lovely life, he has a best friend with whom he goes everywhere and does everything, Monty is a very lucky little penguin in many respects! But Monty yearned for more, for something else, that I don’t think he could quite put his finger (or wing) on at the start of the advert. It was the need for love, the need to love something just like him, that was ticking away deep inside of him.
Monty needed a penguin who was just like him to love him.
I wonder how often we find ourselves like Monty, we have a lovely life by so any standards, but there is just something that feels missing, and we cant quite work out what it is. It’s like there is a little whole in us somewhere, that can’t be filled by anything else. It needed to be filled with love, love of one who is just like us.
Jesus needed to come to earth, as a human, to fill that hole in each of us and to love us and be just like us. This advent, perhaps we could all remember that love actually is all around, and is indeed all we need, and is the reason for Jesus coming to be with us. One who is just like us.
We’ve already talked about how the prophets could not keep quiet about the promised birth of Jesus in the Old Testament. The other week, when I was preaching on the prophets I said that the long promised incarnation was the worst kept secret in history, because it really was!
In my mind the birth of Jesus, and all the events which we know so well from the Christmas stories, are like all those gifts we see in the advert. Badly wrapped so it’s obvious what they are, barely contained and rather poorly hidden.
Growing up a friend and I were always terrible when it came to gift giving, because we’d just get a bit over excited about what it is that we had found for each other. We’d often phone each other the as soon as a present had been bought and say “I’ve got your Christmas story, do you want to know what it is?!”
But I think that’s ok, sometimes gifts don’t need to be secret, surprising or hidden. Perhaps it really is the thought and the gift that matters and not whether it takes us by surprise. The gift of a child is just as great a gift, even though it is known about for nine months prior to arrival.
The gift of Jesus, of God’s presence with and among us on earth, was so great that it doesn’t matter that it was not a secret nor surprise. Perhaps the gift is so great that it couldn’t possibly be a surprise. The presence of God is so great that it can’t not shine and spill out of the person of Jesus. Jesus, a gift joyfully given for us all.
I wonder what those early days were like in the family with the cousins John and Jesus knocking around together. I wonder if there were times when Elizabeth and her cousin Mary would simply have to shake their heads at their unique and out of the ordinary boys. We aren’t told at what age John started his interesting eating and dressing habits, but he probably wasn’t very old when he was off in the wilderness in his hairy pants, eating bugs. And we are told that by 12 Jesus is already causing people to raise their eyebrows at things he says, and causing his parents concern.
I wonder if at that early age Jesus and John just felt a bit muchfor their family. While they were both growing into themselves, working out what their calls from God were, and doing some growing up.
Edgar the Dragon is a lot. He’s adorable for sure, but he’s also a lot to handle as a friend. The little girl in the advert clearly loves Edgar and wants to be his friend, but also gets exasperated at how much he is sometimes, when he runs in, nose blazing (literally) and causes havoc.
Edgar needs to do some calming down, and to find his niche, to show the world what it is he that he is born to do- what his calling is- and do that. Perhaps there was a moment when it all suddenly clicked for Elizabeth and Mary, when Jesus and John finally grew into themselves, grew into their calling and their uniqueness finally made sense to those who could see.
Perhaps we can all sometimes be like Edgar, a little too keen to the point that the world can’t always see our gift for being wonderfully uniquely us. Let’s all hope this advent that we can have someone like the little girl who helps us grow into ourselves and help the world see our tur worth.
This advert was one of those ones that really got to people wasn’t it. It was the centenary of the start of the First World War, and so the events of this Christmas were on people’s hearts and minds; it is no wonder that this advert caught people in deep inside. It is pretty beautifully done.
One of the readings which is often read at Christmas time is from the prophet Isaiah chapter 9. “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace.”
This is what the Israelite people longed to hear and longed to experience. Endless peace, being ruled by someone who was for them, with authority on his shoulders who would be the prince of peace. They were an occupied and persecuted people, and at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy an exiled people, so this was welcome news. A day would come when the fighting, bloodshed and violence would be over and peace would reign. This day would be heralded by the birth of a person.
Now while Jesus’ birth didn’t necessarily equal an end to all wars everywhere, not even for the Jewish people. For those who chose to pay attention to his birth, who knew him as the son of God and followed in the way of the cross, there is a promise of peace, a promise of peace that has lasted thousands of years.
It was this peace that united the English and German soldiers on no-man’s-land in France in 1914, just for one day. Their shared knowledge of one person brought peace for a day. It is this same person that can bring us peace in our own no-man’s-lands this Advent and Christmas, for more than just one day.